Thursday, December 22, 2011

the Girl Card

As a girl, I love pulling the “Girl Card“, and by “Girl Card”, I mean we’re allowed to have a lot of emotions. You can imagine my shock and confusion as I’ve discovered that women here do not express their feelings as freely. It is rare to see them cry, never when the doctor rips off the bandage to their open wound, barely in labor, and not when their child dies. Maybe because they are used to suffering and seeing death so the shock is less? It’s a part of life?

I knew this was cultural but the extent of it can really be seen when doing ob rounds at the hospital. In one bed is a mother (and by mother, I mean 14-20 year old girl) rejoicing over the first child of four that has lived. Next to her is a wife (and by wife, I mean she is the same age as when I started having crushes on boys) grieving over the loss of her baby. But one isn’t smiling more than the other or crying more than the other. So I say rejoicing and grieving because I hope deep down they allow themselves to do that.

On one bed we passed, the doctor told me the mother had a c-section last night for her still born baby. But under her blanket was a tiny child. When I asked the obstetrician why there was still a baby there, she told me how often, as ‘an act of comfort’, the other women whose babies lived will set their child on the no longer mother's bed for awhile. At first, I thought uuuhhh, is that comforting or cruel?

But now I’m thinking what else do these mothers have to give here?? You can’t publicly comfort someone who “isn’t grieving”. You don’t  rub a stranger’s back who isn’t crying or listen to something they‘re not talking about. So instead they quietly lay down what they know to be their own source of comfort.  They give all they have! And in a culture where women aren't supposed to be noticed, I think this woman was smiling bigger knowing someone had noticed her.

That’s on my Christmas wish list!! To be able to see and act on the needs of those who haven‘t broadcasted them! And then give what I got!

Also on my list:
Live on less than I need so I can give way more than I have.
One day have my own child with the same personality as Rachel Stringer.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dirty Feet for Christmas!

Dear Jesus,

I washed my feet tonight, which I hate doing because they’re just going to get dirty again (even though the soles of my feet are literally black), and thought of You washing even nastier male feet, knowing they would get dirty again. And I thought about how much humility it would take to serve like that, to get down on hands and knees to do such a simple act, especially when people are watching You and expecting You to do great things.

I saw a cripple in the street today. Dragging his body along the curb with just his arms, begging and covered in dust. He was one of many cripples and many beggars I’ve seen, but I still wanted to close my eyes so that the image wouldn’t be cemented into my mind for days.
...But then I thought there’s no way You would have closed Your eyes. You would have had someone lower him on a mat to You. You would have told him that he was healed. And how it WAS his faith that healed him, because there was no service or good deed he could have physically done.

I came home and my eyes hurt and my throat was sore after just a couple hours of wind blown dust, and I thought about how You were outside in the desert for forty days fasting, just as much human. And You knew Your eyes would hurt and Your skin would burn, but because the Spirit led, You went anyway.

And I wonder if after the twentieth child asking for a “kodo” (gift) passed You, if You still smiled and still said let them come?…and I wonder, if after just seeing Your smile, they felt like they had actually received a “kodo”.  And as I understand a little more of the pressure Martha must have felt in the kitchen, cooking from scratch to feed guests,  I wonder if I would have thought Mary stopping to listen to You was actually more important than my work?

And as I live here, and begin to see how much it really must have stretched that widow to give her only two coins, or realize how protective and loving a shepherd would have to be to pursue one bony sheep when there’s still the never ending flock of 99 going down the road, or glimpse how much You must have treasured people putting there only jackets on the dirt for Your donkey to walk on, the Gospel comes to me with new waves of awe.

SO thanks that even though the Christmas season makes me homesick for my crazy family, I get to celebrate with more insight into what it really means to have “God with us”, starting with my dirty feet.


Saturday, December 10, 2011

Redboxes and Big Macs

The past couple weeks I’ve been helping with a Nigerien missionary family while their mother is away... helping the three boys with their homework, making sure they have lunch and dinner, hanging out, whatever they need. Their dad is chief surgeon at the hospital so my logic is that if he goes hungry, then surgeries go bad, then everyone in Niger who needs surgeries dies…pressure’s on (side note: despite being chief surgeon and in a culture where men don’t hang out with their children, this man is an AMAZING father and husband and surgeon, holy SMOKES). Since the boys have been here a couple years and now speak English (their third language) fluently and attend Galmi day school, I sometimes forget that they are from Niger, until certain conversations pop up.

Me: Geez, I feel like a vending machine!!
N: What’s a vending machine?
Me: It’s a machine that gives you snacks and drinks automatically when you put money in it.
E: So where is the person that sells it?
Me: The vending machine sells the stuff and a person can get the money later.
N: So it’s so people stop stealing money.
Me: Sometimes the machine steals my money. But I shake it until the snack comes out.
N: So you feel like a vending machine because you think we’re going to shake you.
Me: No, because I am getting you things without you saying please or thank you.
N: People have vending machines so that you don’t have to be nice all the time.
Me:  No, so you can get snacks more quickly if no is around.
E: So you have vending machines because people are lazy or because people are too hungry to wait?

By the end of the conversation (which took up most of lunch), I no longer know why we have vending machines, and I chose not to mention Redbox.

The main dish here is rice and some kind of sauce. But after two weeks of lots of rice and sauce for dinners, they weren’t sick of it, but I had gotten sick of watching them eat it, so I made cheeseburgers. I should also mention that you usually want to make meat last, so you put it in a spaghetti sauce or something…so even though I had made tiny flat golf ball size cheeseburgers, it came as a shock.

Me: It’s a cheeseburger, you’ve never had a cheeseburger?
D: One time in Senegal.
Me: Do you guys want to put tomatoes on it? In the States, we put ketchup, mustard, and pickles on it.
E: EWWWW, ketchup, mustard, and pickles on your meat!!!
Me: You put it on this bun and then the meat is in between.
D: I don’t want to, my mouth won’t fit around a bun and meat.

I can’t imagine what would happen if I showed them a Big Mac. We had rice and chili the next lunch.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Plastic Bags

I’ve been told that a main reason we hire house helpers and gardeners here is because we have the means to provide people with jobs, so we should. But even though we provide them with work, my goshhhh, they provide the rest. I come back to my home twice a week and screamthink “THANK YOU, JESUS, FOR THIS BLESSED WOMAN WHO DOES MY LAUNDRY AND MY DISHES AND SWEEPS MY FLOOR FOR ME!!!”…(sometimes cleaning bores me).

Not only that, but I have the angel house helper. Rumor has it she is very much in love with God, and it shows (literally, in my house). While everyone else’s laundry is still hanging on the line after lunch, mine is not only taken down, but neatly folded in my room. Every dish and plastic bag of mine are not only washed but put away. She cleans my stove and mats when I don’t ask her to, including an outside doormat…(what is dirtier than a doormat here?!).

The crazy part is that as she weekly goes beyond the requirements, she hardly ever sees me to get praise for it. Even if she does, she knows that (with my little Hausa) I would not be able to thank her with more than one line.

So in efforts to say “I think I’m in love with you” against a language barrier, I always leave her items that I’ve heard are appreciated. Usually, I am gone before she arrives at my house, but today she came early and all I had was a plastic bag of extra chicken meat and bones.

She looked in the bag, gasped, and then looked at me and said “na gode” (thank you)…

She then proceeded to look to heaven, tear up, slap her hands into a prayerful clasp and say thank you twice more, this time to God.

I was shocked. Even now I recap and hope that my mouth didn’t drop open.

The biggest and most obvious shock was that something I wouldn’t think twice about, leftovers of a scrawny chicken, would be needed enough to cause such a reaction.

But for those of you who weren’t there to see it (aka everyone), it was such a shock to see her heart be so immediately overwhelmed with thanks to her Giver. I mean her face shone “CURRENTLY WORSHIPPING“.

Much later came the realization that my house also cleanly shines "currently worshipping" every time I step home. Whether by washing plastic bags or receiving them, being thanked in person or noticed by only One, this woman makes her daily steps an act of worship. And the overflow of that has been blessing me!

Are we all in love with her now or what?! Permission granted for you to start collecting camels too.

Galatians 1:10
Am I trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ.

Friday, November 25, 2011

when America's adventures meet Africa...

You think I would've been really homesick on Thanksgiving, but no, I am homesick the day after Thanksgiving…the day where I join two of my most favorite females on the planet (my mother and sister), wake up in the middle of the night (huge fan of night expeditions), and then do some bargain hunting…all in the name of Christmas gifts for the five excited children left at home. OH THE PAIN OF MISSING OUT ON THAT ADVENTURE WITH THEM!!! I would place it just below how much I miss McDonalds and just above how much I miss watching Bears games (should i not admit to missing those things?).

So in honor of this day, I recruited a couple women to celebrate with me at the market…and bargain like we’ve never bargained before.

I am pleased to say that I almost got the full Black Friday experience.

The parking lot was full....

the crowd could get overwhelming...


                           Snag a deal at Payless...?                      ...or Forever 21...?

Anyone up for a little snack of locust?...
....or a stop at Mcdonalds???

        (...but seriously, this is the guy I buy my meat from)

And then head home with a full car...

 ...or atleast with somethin'.

...(mom and Chel...I have no doubts in you.)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Party in the U.S.A?!

At a team meeting last night, a woman said that as we are praising the Lord, the enemy is not going to want to stick around. Thanksgiving seems to be quite the part-ay to remind us of that.

So even though we celebrated here a couple weeks ago (between the U.S. and Canada holiday), I’ll have you know that my heart will be partying hard right next to you Americanos tomorrow!!

And my heart’s been warming up because I’ve recently been rejoicing more THAT…

…one of my modes of transportation is not riding on camels cuz they are so slow and they make my thighs sore for days.
 …I still get ‘Party in the U.S.A.’ stuck in my head.
…God appreciates all my prayers even if I’m only saying things like “nice” or “good one” or “really??!!!”
…I get to be the child and He is the Father.
…my mom made me bring a sewing kit because I am shredding clothes fast. Thanks, mom!!!
…despite troubles and joys, God has taught me to add ‘just as it is’ after thanking Him for my life or a situation or a person.
…I don’t mind bugs or snakes too much (my neighbor would disagree) but that some others do, because watching them freak out is quite the supply of hidden laughter and entertainment for me.
…God created senses of humor and they can get you through a lot more than just a comedy movie.
… God breaks my heart for what breaks His.
…‘break and bake’ exists, even if not here.
…I have received no judgment for the recent peeling by my hairline that gives me bad dandruff.
…I’m not surrounded by  “good people” but people who know God’s goodness, and yikes that is more enduring.
…I get a wintry feeling when my Nigerien second grader shows up to school with gear I would wear sledding (because it’s “so cold”?!? in the mornings).
…kids say the darndest things.
…the lines between needs and wants are getting less blurry.
…I don‘t want to fall in love with my life, I want to fall in love with Jesus.
…my closest two neighbors said they don’t mind when I blast my music (probably will live to regret it).
…God DOES make His presence felt. He DOES speak to our hearts. He DOES show us His goodness.
…I haven’t taken my malaria pill in quite some time but I still don’t have malaria (…I’m gonna get so much heat for this, I’m SORRY, I’ll start today, I keep forgetting!)
…I have the movie “The Proposal” and every short term girl who has come and gone has loved its entertaining relief and I’m pretty sure it’s Kelsey A.’s and this is how she is finding out I have it….
…the smallest thing “can make my day” or, even better, make someone else’s day.

Or better said, “Give thanks in ALL circumstances for this is GOD’S WILL for you in Christ Jesus”!  1 Thessalonians 5:18.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

M-r-s Degrees

Quick shout out to Taylor University for preparing me for all the marriage talk that takes place in this country.

I have had more than one proposal (can’t wait to pull  a few comments like “eh, I’ve had better offers” whenever I get a guy that I actually like to go down on one knee).
(translated from French ):“Tell your friend to marry me.”…(then in English to me): ”I have three camels”.
Me: “Oh, sorry, my dad wants 5,000 camels?”
Few moments of silence: “Five or five thousand?”
Me: "Five thousand."
Man (laughing): "I don’t have!"
And we both said smiling farewells….so needless to say, if you make the right jokes, they take rejection pretty darn well.

A few hours later, at the church youth night (which is also known as ‘singles group' and I was warned to not speak to the boys if I wanted to make friends), we learned that their Christmas skit was about a young woman who had an arranged marriage but she didn’t marry for love and divorced. I am still open for suggestions as to the moral of the story and what it has to do with Christmas.

(Added story: I was horrified when I nudged the Nigerien girl next to me when they were taking volunteers for the main part and she said “no, YOU” louder than my “you”, and then the group proceeded to try to get me to do it. Thank goodness “no Haussa“ got me out of that one pretty quickly.
…I guess they don’t need the typical angel or wise men parts, but maybe I’ll still get to be a flower girl or something.)

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Top Three Screams

I have accumulated many great 'Why is This Kid Screaming’ stories, but here are three favorites:

1.      A kindergartener, who I work one on one with every day often has trouble remembering my name. His mom told me that he prays for me every night, but after struggling, can only refer to me as “the girl”. I started asking and reminding him of my name every day. Finally, he came into the classroom, ran right up to me, and said, “hi”, and then as loud as he could…“auntie JENNNAAYYYY!!!!” His mom told me that the first thing he proudly proclaimed when he got home was…”I remembered the girl’s name today.”

2.      I do a little thing called “after school squeezes”, where I give each kid a hug after school. With a classroom full of mainly boys, I usually have to chase them down to fulfill the rule. I mentioned it one day when I was amongst a large group of kids, and while all the boys were scrambling around in circles, I heard a voice from the middle of the group scream, “I WOULD LIKE ONE!!!” I looked over and saw the youngest of the clan, a four year old (not even in school with us), standing in the center of the room with his arms squished by his sides, eyes squeezed closed, and chin up, ready to take on his hug.

3.      In church, because I don’t understand the language, my eyes often wander. This particular time, they latched onto a toddler who was in the back of the room, standing alone. I watched him wander down the aisle, looking down each row, and when he arrived right below the preaching pastor, he swiveled around, planted his feet, and screamed, “MAMAAAAA?!!?”.  Others quietly motioned to a corner of the room, where one voice reacted. Of course, I had to spend the next thirty minutes trying to distract my thoughts from the event, with my hand clasped over my mouth to stifle any escaping laughter.

Who woulda thought you could enjoy kids screaming?? The more I hang out with children, the more pumped I am that God wants me to be “humbled like a child“ (Matt. 18:4) so that I can
rejoice in my small victories instead of  saying “took me long enough” and beating myself up the days I forget.
…proclaim at any random moment during my day, “I WOULD LIKE ONE, LORD!!!!!” and then stand there, not doing anything to deserve it, and receive a hug.
…be authentic enough to stop, look around, and admit not just to myself  but others around me, SHOOOOOOT!!!...I'm LOST. so I can get directed back to my Parent.

    (Me: “Why is it taking you so long to start journaling about ‘one sport you would like to be good at’?”
    Student: “I can’t think of one sport that I’m not already really amazing at!”
     …question is does God roll His eyes after we give Him a good laugh too?… )

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

a walk through the village...


these boys are faithful little companions and so cheerful.

don't you wish you were invited?! did i!!
just cuz i'm in love with her.

proof of the beauty in the desert!

Monday, November 7, 2011

New Investments

Something I wasn’t expecting coming to Galmi: there are a lot of people that come and go. And so far, in my personal opinion, it has been mainly ladies my age. Great part is that the understanding of both the laughter and trouble here brings people together quickly. Bad news is: friends leave!

Since arriving a month or so ago, my time has been enriched with many wonderful women from all over the world…a swiss medical student, a romanian pharmacist, a swiss nurse (find reason to travel to the Alps…check), and a surgery resident from the U.S.

Then one by one, week by week, I found myself helping a different friend prepare to go back home.

The past two weeks, I was blessed with yet another incredible woman, a confident yet humble emergency doctor from North Carolina. We shared laughter, struggles, prayer, food, then today, I hugged her goodbye.

It’s a strange feeling to watch your friend take off to the familiar then realize you are still standing there. And whether they stay two weeks or two months, I find myself sobbing or at least in tears when they leave.  I don’t cry because I want to go too but because I will sincerely really miss them.

After another emotional hug, a long term missionary came up beside me and asked if I was okay.  I replied with a tearful “I guess it’s worth it”, and without me having to explain, she wrapped her arm around me and said confidently, “yes it is, because it is an investment in their lives.”

I hadn’t thought of friendship as an investment...but the feeling I get when people leave is quite the confirmation that it is. Though the time, food, and emotional investments are temporary… yay for the awareness that Christ is being modeled for each other and the growth that comes from that, the eternal investments.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Dear Africa...

Dear African heat,

Today you beat me to the ground. Literally.

First, I woke up this morning two hours early because your stinkin’ temperature made it too uncomfortable to sleep.

Then, I was so tired from waking up before the crack of dawn (and had plent-ay of time) that I made instant iced coffee. You knew that would dehydrate me. And I walked around woozy at school despite downing many a nalgene bottle.

And THEN, when I got home, my filtered water spout had only the tiniest drip coming out of it, probably because the gardeners were out and about watering the veggie gardens you dried out . Also, I burnt just about every finger trying to light the stove …that part’s not your fault but whatever.

Clever of you to make the power go out for a longer amount of time today, so that the fans weren’t working, so that I would feel you more.

Way to then trick me into thinking I would be fine because, even though it was constant, I was only sweating a little.

All this led to your real victory when I got up from my chair and splatted on the ground in a dizzy spell, which you’ve pulled on me many times before, but this time blacked out and woke up with my friend freaking out and asking if I was alive (even though she is a medical student and was hopefully aware that I was still alive).

Dang you, African heat. Today you win. But I’ve already chugged a nalgene and placed a full water container in my fridge. Let’s just say, I’m so ready to own you tomorrow.

Bring it,

P.s: Don’t underestimate the effectiveness of the paper fan I just made.

2 Corinthians 12:30. If I must boast, I  will boast of the things that show my weakness.  
…but it’s still on, Africa.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Pick Up Yo Mat!

On rounds with a fourth year medical student a couple days ago, we went to check in with her patient that had been diagnosed with tetanus earlier that morning. He couldn't move and could barely even talk to us because of the muscle spasms through out his arms, legs, and jaw. Feeling strongly that he needed prayer, we sat next to his bed and lay hands on him.

The next morning, my friend went on rounds again and saw this once bedridden man walking around outside his room interacting with people. After talking to him, he said that he was feeling better, out of his bed, able to walk and talk. Confused, she went to ask the doctor if she could give him oral pills and discharge him from the hospital. The doctor said that there is no way that a man that was confirmed to have tetanus by the medical student and several doctors the morning before could be ready to leave in one day, especially here where it can take weeks.

So the doctor went to check on the patient and ask him questions. In shock, the doctor asked my friend, “did you do anything yesterday afternoon?”…And she said, “yeah, we prayed in Jesus' Name!”

Even better, the patient was one of the few who had enough schooling to know French, so my friend was able to translate the prayer and understand him without a middle person.

The man ‘was cured; he picked up his mat and oral medications and walked home‘…“the man went away and told the Nigeriens it was JESUS who made him well”…John  5:9,15.

Not only that, but the day before, a baby who had been constipated for over a month was brought in by his young mother. I was able to pray for him while we were waiting for the doctor and a few minutes later, before any medicine had even been prescribed, the baby had pooped what looked like a month’s worth all over his mom.

I guess Jesus also said, ‘pick up yo poopy baby and walk home‘!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

To Santy Claus

Dear Santa,

Someone told me that it takes 7-10 weeks for something to get here. I took it upon myself to do the math for you and this would mean that you should start sending me my Christmas envelopes now!! Lucky for you my address is already on my profile!

Things I would love:
1. Zip Lock Bags…for me and to distribute to others.
2. Sermons on CD/DVD…not enough internet to download those and church is in Haussa.
3. Stationary for writing people notes. Post it notes for school.
4. Gum.
5. Candy or chocolate…I don’t care how you get it to me, if it melts, I‘ll lick it off the envelope.
6. Support donations to SIM.
***7. Words of Encouragement…if you send letters separately, they get here much more easily.
8. Prayer….aaaaah, puhlease!!

I‘m sorry if this isn‘t subtle or selfless…what can I say, my family usually needs very large hints.


***I’ve realized here how much small kindnesses are underestimated. No matter where you are, who doesn’t love to receive little gifts, emails, or notes of “thanks” for their everyday actions. Even better, who doesn’t want to be told “what you did is noticed” or “who you are is noticed“. Not just ‘you can do it’ but “you ARE doing it”. Good friends need it even if they are good friends. Strangers love it even if they don‘t know the other person well. It can be comforting, or encouraging, or a bright spot in a day, or whatever the Holy Spirit wants it to be. I don’t know why I don’t do it more often?!!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

welcome, babies!

The CREN has some of my favorite people to spend time with and is quickly becoming one of my favorite places to visit...(I probably will start going there more and more often and not pick up on the social cues that it's too much).  But Jesus took children in His arms and said that if you welcome them in His name, you're welcoming Him. And I would love nothing more than to welcome Jesus right into the CREN, especially if the babies get used to me...a one year old came right up to my lap today!

The bad news is I am horrible at remembering to take pictures (anywhere). The good news is my friend came with me one time and took some!!

I'm really going to miss these women when they head back home!!
They watch the Jesus Film often...(sorry that I sometimes talk during the movie).

 Some beautiful women...(can you spot me??).

TAKING THE CHILD IN HIS ARMS, He said to them, anyone who welcomes a little child like this on My behalf welcomes Me,  and anyone who welcomes Me welcomes not only Me but also my Father who sent Me.
Mark 9:36-37.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Orientation Flunk Out

I had to go to Niamey (land of cheese, two grocery stores, and CHOCOLATE) for a few days to (eat) attend an orientation about Niger.

One of our talks was a cultural lesson…things to do and not to do. A lot of the information I knew…head covering in public, long skirts, greet people (and not just with a smile or a ’hi’ but with every question you can remember in their language “how are you? how's your work? how's your mom? how's your cow? how's your mom's cow?) AND DON’T SHAKE, TOUCH, OR HAND ANYTHING TO ANYONE WITH YOUR LEFT HAND.

It’s becoming awkward how many times I’ve flunked that last one. And I’m right handed, shouldn’t be that difficult.

Taxi cab…realized I was reaching to give him the money with my left and my driver was staring at my hand not the coins, I froze mid hand off debating whether to switch hands while he continued to stare. Market…my new friend and I couldn’t figure out why the man was so displeased with the amount I gave him...“didn’t it seem like he liked us until the end there?” Buying clothing material…had to give him a new bill because my left hand had dirtied the first one. Bought fruit…received it with my left hand (my right hand was holding a bag, no one will cut you slack!!)

Part of the disgust is because the left hand means bad, it’s just cursed. The main reason, though, is because most people use their left hand to clean the essentials after they go to the bathroom.

After my daily fails, my companions would attempt to encourage me with a ’you’ll get it eventually’.

Didn’t think that would ever happen until my 7 hour African bus ride home from Niamey. We stopped about 4 hours in for a bathroom break. Since we pulled into a fenced in, shrubless area, I was thinking there would be an actual bathroom. And man, I had to go! (And yes, I brought toilet paper in case you're wondering where this story is going).

Eventually, I see a line to a tinnnnnny thin door. Waiting in line, I was, like always, cooing at the baby with a mother standing behind me. When it gets to be my turn, I walk in and there is one itty bitty hole in the corner of the soggy dirt stall with a pile of other nutrients around it. Pretty obvious how the bathroom works and what it doesn‘t have. Also obvious that the height of the door is only to your waist, so if you wanted, you could wave at all the line waiters when you turned around (I chose not to).

To my delight, I was handed the baby when I stepped out so that the mother could go in (didn‘t run away with the baby either…yet another victory for me). After AWHILE she came back out and grabbed her little girl from me. Holding her child with her right arm, she then proceeded to thank and interact with me by shaking my hand and touching my arms with her left. And suddenly, as I felt the overwhelming feeling of uncertainty and a fake smile plaster across my face, I realized how my taxi driver, my fabric and fruit seller, and my market man had felt.

…that’s just the kind of ’what if’ nobody wants hanging over there head (or arms or food or money)…I officially had my 'you'll get it eventually' memory.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

achin' from the all

To love the Lord your God. To walk in all His ways. To obey His commands. To hold fast to Him. To serve Him with all your heart and all your soul.  Joshua 22:5.

It’s funny because although most things are tougher in Niger than in the states, some come easier. It is easier for me to hold fast to God here, because I need strength amidst the unfamiliar tragedies and foreign atmosphere. What has been more challenging is to do what He asks me. Especially since I want to pull the ‘isn’t coming here and serving enough?’ card.

As soon as I arrived, I felt that God wanted me to pray for the patients in the hospital. Yes, that is a command. Heal the sick, raise the dead, cleanse those who have leprosy, drive out demons (Matt 10:1, 8).  The prayer offered in faith makes the sick person well (James 4:15). God chooses to work through natural and supernatural healing and I’m all for both. The doctors are wonderful here, with a strong belief in God‘s power, but they are strained, so they don’t always have time to walk around and lay hands of prayer on these desperately sick people.

Anywhere you are, God can heal, and we ignore the opportunities and make excuses. But when you are placed in the middle of a hospital in the world’s poorest country, there’s really no ignoring the opportunity…

...but heck yes, there ARE still excuses… 
There are no words to describe this hospital. Just walking through with very little interaction, seeing two or more patients sharing one mat, takes a lot of my heart. Just watching doctors work, with very little resources against conditions I'd never thought I'd see or easily treatable U.S. illnesses, takes a lot of my heart. Just thinking about that one family member, who does nothing but sit and care for the patient day after day for sometimes months hoping for better results, takes a lot of my heart.  It takes a lot of my soul to dive past the immense pain and suffering and smile at people. To display God given joy, to look past disease and weakness crawling up their bodies in order to show compassion.

Here in writing, it can seem like a story or easy to label as an amazing ministry opportunity, but the reality of suffering is harsh and preparing to connect more deeply with it is not fun.

Walk in all His ways, obey His commands. Not a lot of my heart, not a lot of my soul, all my heart, all my soul.

So I did what God was asking. While batting away thoughts from my human mind and personality that ‘I can‘t handle this’, I walked through and prayed for the many patients that agreed. Yes, a powerful God provided miraculous strength, joy, and relationship seeds despite pain and language barriers. Still, when I laid hands on them, some fevers felt like they were gonna burn off my skin, and faith and trust were not at all a feeling but a knowing.

And afterwards, the ache felt unreal, and I went home and sobbed from the things I saw and the people who I wanted to see alive during doctor’s rounds.

And I’ll go pray again and I will probably keep crying.

But it demanded obedience, and it took all my heart and all my soul. And I am so grateful for that…because God gets glory…so it will continue to be more than worth it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Sensing Some Galmi School Differences....

I’ve only taught for two weeks…and never in the U.S...but besides having five different grades in one room, I've noticed other parts of my teaching experience that seem like they're a lil different...

1. Students see my underwear hanging on a line outside and know its mine when they watch me take it down.
2. New books (aka haven’t been opened since they were donated) means killing the earwigs before you write your name in them.
3. In the classroom, we all walk around in bare feet.
4. Lizards are the class pet…and we have more than one of them.
5. The power goes out several times a day, good thing we have some windows.
6. No one flinches when the power goes out, but if it starts to rain, kids start pleading for a storm day (kinda like a snow day).
7. They call me Auntie Jenny, not Miss Stringer.
8. They knock at my apartment door to show me dead birds, big bugs, and chameleons.
9. Half the time they’ve come to my door, they’ve seen my indecent…aka with a tank top on. Heaven forbid I be in shorts.
10. Instead of using Kleenex for their runny noses, its kept around  for wiping sweat off  faces and desks.
11. My kindergartener is still confused by weather conditions such as cloudy, snowy, or windy. But if I describe sunny, he gets it right every time.
12. I don’t send the kids to the nurse, I personally walk them all the way home to a parent who is probably a doctor.
13. I race the kids to school (and lose every time…and then blame it on my skirt).
14. Gym class means me spending an hour afterwards pulling thorns out of skirt from getting the ball in the bushes…next time have the boys do it…noted.
15. Instead of pouring knowledge down my kids’ throats, I go down the line and pour water.

***Things that are the same: Amelia Bedelia is still a crazy lunatic, why do kids like those books.!

Quote of the week: “Look, this is my toenail! I just clipped it off with my mouth…I do that sometimes.”

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Most Important Post Ever


Just like there are no stupid questions, there are no stupid things to get in your mailbox.

Galmi Hospital
c/o Jenny Stringer
B.P. 44 Madaoua
Republique du Niger

And we all know what else they say...
"It ain't over til the fat lady receives mail."
"A watched mailbox never fills."
"When in America, do as the Americans do and send mail."
"If worst comes to worst, at least you have mail."
"One small letter in the mailbox, one giant package in the mailroom."
"Simba, you have forgotten me. You have forgotten to send me mail and so you have forgotten me. Look inside yourself, Simba. And write a card or something."

I even included the address in my profile so there will be no excuses.

Monday, October 3, 2011

What the heck did the boys do??!

Today, for whatever reason, I felt way more tired than usual and realized it had been awhile since I‘d been alone for a whole night. So I decided to say no to going to a house dinner with the two slightly-older-than-me girls and the three my age-ish boys that are here.

Usually, I leave my door open and the screen door closed so I don‘t suffocate. But tonight I debated shutting both, remembering how unless your outer door is shut here, it is more than normal for people to just drop in. In the end, I concluded that if I was going to shut anything tonight, it shouldn’t be to keep people out.

And just a few minutes after my decision, I heard a “knock knock” (people say it here not do it because the doors are always open)…a Swiss medical student and a wonderful friend. She had tears rolling down her face and said she had left the dinner because she needed to cry. Laying in my lap and sobbing, she talked about how hard it was to work at this place and all the pressure she felt to save lives that were not being saved.

After we were almost done crying and praying, there was another “knock, knock“…the other young girl, a pharmacist from Romanian. She hadn’t shown up to the boys’ house for dinner because she too was crying, so upset about situations going on at her far away home. And desperately feeling like she needed prayer, God had led her here…where we were, already praying and ya, we had another solid round.

After hours, my friends left, filled with God’s peace instead of dinner. And finally left alone, I couldn’t stop thinking about what would have happened if I had instead decided to close my door.

I’m sure I would have had a normal maybe even great night, and those two women of God might have found a different door with a missionary that proclaimed them self available. But I’m so glad they didn’t have to. I’m so glad God gave me the privilege of being the one to pray for them, an experience of fellowship, and an excuse to eat too many sour patch kids.

I’m not even saying that there won’t be times when I need it to be closed and someone else will receive the opportunity to be used. I just learned, that as a servant, the decision to close it can’t be made too quickly or too selfishly....(for those of you having trouble keeping up...we have moved on from literal doors).

And if after all that, you’re just thinking how the heck did she have sour patch kids?? The answer is yes, I brought them all the way from the states to Niger and have been practicing miraculous self-control rationing them for a moment such as this…worth it….but that doesn’t mean I would be able to do it again.

A better question might be what the heck did the boys do while we ditched dinner to sob our hearts out and eat sweets?? Man talk, I guess?

Friday, September 30, 2011

Ghost Monster

Today I got to hold babies!! We all know that’s the real reason I came here.

The only problem with this baby holding session was that the babies hated in, they were sobbing as soon as I squatted down towards them. And they would continue to squeal until they were in their mother’s arms. It was like someone had a ‘pause’ button…they would instantly stop whining, but if I edged towards them…more complaints, I step away…pause. Understandable because being surrounded by beautiful brown skin, I was probably one of the first ghost monsters they had ever seen.

The spot that I went to is a section outside the hospital that houses mothers and their sick toddlers, in order to teach them how to take care of their children. So for at least a month, these brave women and their babies sleep and eat right next to each other in this outdoor, walled in area.  This place specifically broke my heart when I was given a tour because the babies are SO TINY. There are flies all over their faces and in their ears and noses, their black hair is blonde from lack of protein, they have fire hose arms and legs, and most of them look like infants until they smile and you see teeth.

So timidly (I asked God like 54xs if He thought it was a good idea), I thought I would go over and love on these kids, or give the mothers a change up from an otherwise not very eventful day (what their taught is so helpful but like the time consuming classes we know of), or see if any of the Nigeriens needed help (no white people work there…making me even more of a monster) after I finished with school.

Too bad the babies hated me!

But, because God is creative, the mothers loved it. Not in a cruel way, just in an entertained way. They laughed and laughed when their baby would whine if I neared them and laughed more at my (probably dramatic) shocked reaction. Others would line up and call me over to see if their child was gonna hide its little face. And everyone cheered and laughed when one little trooper (my personal favorite now, duh) let me hold her.

The laughing turned into an invitation to sit on their mats, they practiced speaking Haussa with me, showed me how to grind their grain, and asked when I was coming back. We even had a successful joking session with just gestures about how if I tied a baby to my back and started batting grain, that poor baby would be a goner.

And by the end, the babies weren’t so scared of me. And the mothers had laughed a lot that day. So thanks, God! for using me to give a lot of brave women some joy, even though it was in the opposite way that I had expected. And I hope You’re proud of me for not stealing a single child.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Quotable Quotes

There's a lot of good things being said 'round here:

“I always popped my squats next to a shrub …they need the hydration…that way I could add agricultural helper to the missionary resume.”
 -ExNigerien missionary

“And now I'm in the post-Notebook slump. Wishing I had a man that looks like Ryan Gosling. UGH. Totally equatable to the struggles your going to face while living on your own in a third world country and teaching children. I probably have it more difficult, honestly.”
 -Awesome email from a funny friend

“Is that an airplane?”…”no, i turned on the ceiling fan.” 
-A dinner conversation interruption...seriously, though, they're so loud

YOU PUT THE COBRA IN YOUR FRIDGE?!”…”well, he would go bad on the counter…”
 -My neighbor (who will now be referred to as Tarzan..on this blog…and to his face...and probably behind his back) kept the cobra that was found and killed here yesterday

Later…”don’t worry, the snakes don’t always come out…only if they’re hungry.”
-Nigerien making honest efforts at a pep talk for me

“Here’s a bag of sugar! Let’s buy this one.” …”Um, I think that’s sodium nitrate…for fertilizer.”
-Friend to a friend...but I say whatever, all those things look the same!…and its not like my cooking could get worse

And from the kiddlings:

No, they make them too spicy.” ….”only if theyre cooked, I don’t really like them raw.
-My students answers to if they like eating grasshoppers (you think they would say ‘no…cuz they’re insects’)

“It would be hard for people like you…whoops!..I mean old bend over and get it…” 
-A boy to the teacher (the younger ones haven’t learned how to cover their tracks well yet, I guess)

And the real deals:

"Have you ever noticed that a lot of Jesus' ministry was when He was interrupted?"
-Shyikes! and to think I'm always trying to avoid interruptions when I'm working or even doing ministry

Monday, September 26, 2011

Niger's Next Top Models

It has become very obvious to me that I am surrounded by natural beauties. No make up, straightened or curled hair, no perfume or expensive clothes…Walking around in the heat and the dust makes it very difficult to look put together, in fact, you don’t even try. And yet, I find myself with some of the most attractive women I have ever met. They glow. Yes, it starts on the inside, but it radiates all the way to the outside. I literally can see the beauty from their hearts on their faces. I didn’t even believe it worked that way.

It’s in the way they live, the sacrifice is obvious, from the climate to the simple living to the far away families…But what is more captivating is their every day interactions.  When I see a certain woman here, she always asks how my day was; and the way she asks tugs so deep inside that I realize what I actually think about my day and feel so welcomed to share it with her. Another woman greets every child here with such compassion and joy that I know their entire morning has been brightened. The doctor walking through the hundreds of hospital beds can still notice a young girl’s newly braided hair. Busy with a million things, a wife turned around and walked all the way back to help me buy fruit at a stand she had just returned from, and another took the only restful part of her day to show me around the compound.

Their laughs spread warmth not just comedy. Their basic practices of hospitality and honesty have power. It's not that they aren't busy or tired...because they are so busy and so tired. But somehow their hearts don't beat for themselves but for others. And in wanting to imitate that type of purity, I realize who I am really imitating is my Savior.

All that to say, bring on the wrinkles and the gray hair because I can not WAIT to be as good looking as these desert ladies.

…and I also hope to dance like an old crazy at weddings and absent mindedly say a lot of shocking things at dinner tables …but that will come later...and they don’t do that here.

Those who look to Him are radiant. Psalm 34:5

Friday, September 23, 2011

It's all fun and games...

...until you meet the spideybird. Honestly, it was a bird-spider..a spideybird. And I thought I was so emotionally prepared for spiders too.

I just had my first full day in the actual area I am living. And I loved meeting a few of the missionary families that I am staying with and seeing the apartment that I'll be living in. I even met a few of the kids that I'll get to teach. They were out killing crickets for their pet hedge hog, Snuffles, and their preying mantis.

And like I said...hedge hog, preying mantis...even the everywhere lizards, or the toad I stepped on, the three unknown bugs in my room I just killed, or the crickets (which one of those louder lil guys sounds just like my alarm clock, what a punk) and games. But this spider was massive and he was a HOPPER.

I came home after dinner at the house of the teacher I'll be working with and saw him fling himself from the kitchen counter to the wall. After a bit of yelping (screaming) and deep breaths, I took off my shoe and started giving myself a pep talk about how I was gonna smash him. And if one smash wasn't enough, I would just do it again. And if he escaped, I'd find him. The problem was I knew this spideybird hated me so if I killed him, his children would come find me, so a few seconds of pep talking turned into a few minutes...

Then I realized there was a brave just out of high school boy in the apartment next to me. So with glee, I scurried on over and smashed myself against his window and did my effective loud whisper "D...D...are you scared of spiders?!"...and I heard his voice from his room, "my sisters make me kill the spiders, too".

And he didn't even kill it, he captured it in a big jar and let it outside. So now the spideybird's children aren't mad and I'm thuh-rilled. I told my neighbor the next one was on me, but maybe I conveniently won't have a jar to put it in or something...

Sunday, September 18, 2011

The Truman Show

Before I came here, my friend mentioned she wished I was on the Truman Show (you know who you are, ya creeper) so she could see every thing that was happening. And it’s so ironic because the past couple days, I’ve really felt like that dude. Not so much the ‘everyone is watching you’ Truman, moreso the “freaking out in the car as the bike lady cycles by again and he realizes its all a set up’ Truman.

From receiving encouragement from two men in the airport traveling with Samaritan’s Purse who had been to Niger…to talking with a guy about his book called Knowing Jesus on the airplane…to partnering in the impossible mission of finding our international flight with a young girl who had recently aided sex trafficked victims in India…I have been encouraged and in awe at the work and the testimonies of so many amazing people from around the world.  Every time, I walk away from an encounter with someone, whether it was a long conversation or the janitor that tracked me down to tell me that I had left (my only) long sleeved possession in the airport chair (what kind of airport janitor does that?!), I‘m always shrieking (in my head, no worries), “THAT WAS A SET UP!!”.

But unlike my man Truman, I’m so thankful that Someone is not only setting me up but experiencing and enjoying it with me.

Not to mention the added comic relief when a missionary in Charlotte turned to me and said, “You wont starve, as long as you can cook. And you’ll have no problem with the language, as long as you’re not tone deaf.”…Seriously?! The two items on my top five list of things EVERYONE KNOWS I can’t do…I was just waiting for him to say “you won’t die…as long as you’re coordinated.”

I’m also pleased to announce that I’ve introduced the word “awesome” to the people at my layover in Casablanca.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Mike and Joan

I usually get motion sickness on planes so I've never been a huge fan of them. And considering I used to cry every time I went back to college, I'm also not a huge fan of saying bye to my family. So I think in an effort to comfort me, God put me on jusssst the right spot on the plane. Right behind my new favorite older couple/new best friends, Mike and Joan. And by best friends, I mean we never talked and I just eavesdropped on their banter. Although, I was tempted to squeeze my head in between the airplane chairs and say "I just think you guys are great".

Joan:  You already ate the whole cinnamon roll?
Mike:  Yup. (wide smile).
Joan:  Wow... Didn't even offer this old woman a piece, Mike?
**Keep in mind that Joan laughs at all her own jokes. Similar to my mother...and unfortunately, myself.**
Mike:  No way. I heard you sniffling. YOU have a cold.
Joan:  You could have ripped me off a MORSEL, Michael.
Mike:  Gross.
Joan:  (pauses...then sniffs right in his face...followed by lots of laugher done by Joan).

Joan:  I'm hungry.
Mike:  Eat your granola bar.
Joan:  No. I'm MORSEL hungry.

Even later...
Mike:  (to flight attendant) Excuse me, have you ever even heard of such a thing as being 'morsel hungry'?
**Keep in mind that Mike also laughs quite a bit at himself.**
Joan:  (to grinning flight attendant) MICHAEL, HOW DARE YOU!!! DONT GIVE HIM HIS DRINK!!

Pretty sure that this (quite) old couple were the best part of the attendant's and my flight. Their humor was hilarious, but it was their lively cheer that got me back into the groove. Crazy how contagious a joyful spirit can be...and you never know who is watching, or needs it!..could be the misty eyed and slightly nauseous girl sitting behind you.

Best part about it: Joan had a zebra bag. Seeing some zebras after all.

**(to keep this blog honest, you should know that I made up the name Joan. but I am sure that was the woman's name. she looked like a Joan AND I feel that the name goes great with Mike).**